MOUNT RAINIER, MARYLAND, February 15, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Valentine’s Day, a priest and a nun penned an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled, “A Catholic Case for Same-Sex Marriage.”

Sister Jeannine Gramick and Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry in Mt. Rainier, Maryland, wrote, “Many Catholics…understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love.”

“As Catholics who are involved in lesbian and gay ministry and outreach, we are aware that many people, some of them Catholics, believe that Catholics cannot faithfully disobey the public policies of the church’s hierarchy. But this is not the case,” they wrote. “Like Govs. Andrew Cuomo in New York and Pat Quinn in Illinois…Govs. Martin O’Malley and Christine Gregoire are acting against the strongly expressed opposition of their church’s bishops.”

They argued the acceptance by many Roman Catholics of the homosexual lifestyle should be considered on par with the teachings of the Church. “The Catholic Church is not a democracy, but neither is it a dictatorship. Ideally, our bishops should strive to proclaim the sensus fidelium, the faith as it is understood by the whole church.”

After stating that Scripture and Church tradition offer “little firm reason to oppose marriage” between members of the same sex, they added, “millions of Catholics are arriving at different conclusions rooted deeply in the teachings of our faith…We support marriage equality, and we won’t forget the Catholic legislators and governors who have worked on behalf of justice for lesbian and gay couples.”

Proponents of traditional marriage say even the title of the article is incorrect.

“It’s just their case,” said Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, president and founder of The Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage. “There’s nothing Catholic about what they’re saying at all,” she told LifeSiteNews.com.

“Sister Jeannine Gramick has been at odds with the Magisterium of the Church for decades,” Marcus Plieninger, Director of Policy Studies at the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told LifeSiteNews.com. “In her latest article, she pits the Catholic hierarchy’s authoritative defense of Church doctrine regarding marriage against millions of Catholics, who she claims feel otherwise, including two Catholic governors advocating for the legalization of homosexual marriage…Church teaching is defined not by polls, not by popular opinion, not by politicians, not by the ideological winds of ‘social justice,’ not even by Sister, herself, but by what the Church, in fact, teaches.” 

Dr. Morse, who testified in Olympia against Washington state’s same-sex marriage bill, said such a change would carry drastic consequences for the family and for society as a whole. “The natural reality of mother and father is being defined out of existence and being replaced with something that is a legal and social construct.”

Marriage, motherhood, and fatherhood “are natural realities…that predate any government,” Dr. Morse told LifeSiteNews. “The Church stands for that natural reality against the State attempting to redefine it for its own purposes and for the benefits of a special interest group.”

“Something like redefined marriage can’t sustain itself without a lot of coddling from the State,” she said. “The State will have to enforce that view everyplace that the Church interacts with society, so the thing we’re seeing with the insurance mandate is going to get played out on the marriage side, as well. All of this expansion of the State is being done to accommodate the growth of so-called sexual freedom.”

Sr. Gramick’s authorship contradicted a 1999 order by the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith that she not address the issue of homosexuality, because her teachings were “doctrinally unacceptable.”

Dr. Morse called the authors “the usual suspects, who have never accepted Church teachings on any sexual, moral issues.”

Sr. Gramick’s controversial history of defiance was celebrated in the film In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine’s Journey of Faith, shot by Albert Maysles and conceived by Barbara Ricks, who is described as “a lapsed Catholic.”

Sr. Gramic and Fr. Robert Nugent founded New Ways Ministry – which describes itself as “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities” – in Mount Rainier, Maryland, in 1977. 

In 1984, Archbishop of Washington James Hickey refused to grant approval of its activities; Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent were ordered to resign their leadership positions and end their participation in any of its activities. They resigned but continued teaching and writing on behalf of the organization.

Ultimately, Rome itself weighed in. Fifteen years later the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith issued a statement that “the positions advanced by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable.”

“[T]the promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion: persons who are struggling with homosexuality no less than any others have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them. The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church. For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.”
 
The statement was approved by Pope John Paul II and signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI..

While Fr. Nugent observed the order, Sr. Gramick has been defiant, replying, “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression.” Two years later, after spending 20 years with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sr. Gramick transferred to the Sisters of Loretto, who “support her in her ministry of education and advocacy on behalf of lesbian and gay people.”

The contentions over her writings, however, have not died down.

In 2010, acting as president of the U.S Council of Catholic Bishops, Francis Cardinal George said, “No one should be misled by the claim that New Ways Ministry provides an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching and an authentic Catholic pastoral practice.”

“Like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church and…cannot speak on behalf of the Catholic faithful in the United States,” he said.

Again last March  – in response to New Ways’ booklet Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach by Francis DeBernardo –  Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, the respective chairmen of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, issued a statement reaffirming “in no manner is the position proposed by New Ways Ministry in conformity with Catholic teaching and in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization.”

Sr. Gramick remains confident she will be vindicated by an increasingly liberal laity. She told the National Catholic Reporter that “thinking, studying, praying, in order to come to a decision which may or not be what a moral authority teaches” is “a positive thing. It’s obedience to the Spirit.”

Gramick has claimed at least half of all Catholic priests are homosexual.

“We are planting seeds for change at the upper level of leadership,” she added, observing the changes of Vatican II were “more evolutionary than revolutionary.”

Dr. Morse disagrees. “The Catholic theological Left is aging, and the young people within the Church are much more traditional and socially conservative and more inclined to support the Church’s teachings,” she said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual activity constitutes “grave depravity…Under no circumstances can they be approved.”